I looked at the mother who was sitting in front of me. She was crying softly. I slid my stool over towards her and told her I would help her find a way. She opened her eyes and dabbed them with the matted Kleenex she held in her hand. “I have tried everything,” she said to me. “Nothing seems to work. Every day on my way home from work I pick him up from daycare, and he never listens. He hits, he kicks, and I don’t know what to do.” I leaned towards her and put my arm on her shoulder. “We have to find a way to take care of you. Once we do that I can help you with your son.” “Can you,” she asked me. “I can’t but you can,” I answered.

Parenting is a demanding job. It ensnares you into thinking it is endless. At times you feel as if you are locked in a cell without an exit. Children depend upon us for survival.  From infancy through the teen years parents must be vigilant to identify and provide for the needs of children while keeping them safe. Learned parenting behavior and the biological drive to protect offspring, encourage and influence the way parents recognize, understand and respond to a child’s needs. These responses are limited by time, resources, finances and the emotional competency of prior learned behavior.

Studies have shown that over 50% of parents feel they have no sources of emotional and physical support. Financial stress adds another hardship. These stressors make it difficult for parents to meet the needs of their children.  Stress encourages parents to neglect their own needs and self-care soon disappears.

Parents who neglect their own self-care are at risk for losing patience and compassion. Their lives are bordered by fear, procrastination and self-doubt. Dreams, passions and aspirations are forgotten and behaviors are modeled that do not teach self-awareness and self-care. This loss of self is accompanied by fear, anger, shame and guilt. These become learned behaviors that are then passed on to a new generation prone to social isolation and fueled by anger due to the loss of self.

Self-care must be simplified and programmed into your daily life. You must acknowledge, speak up and walk away when self-care is threatened. You must seek out people, places and things that provide comfort, connection and safety in an ever accelerating world.  When self-care is embedded within your life it provides for both you and your child. You receive the personal, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual benefits and model behavior that changes the biological and emotional decision for your child.

Take a walk and look at the magnificence of nature.  Eat dessert, read a romantic novel, watch a movie, go to a comedy show, walk on the beach, exercise or just brew yourself a cup of tea or hot chocolate. Call a friend or take a nap. Take up dancing or start a scrapbook. Learn how to say “no.” Go to the library, learn a new language or start playing that instrument you have not played since you were a child. Meditate, attend a religious service or volunteer for a favorite unspoken cause.

Each of us built the rooms in which we live. Each house is our challenge and responsibility.  Every room must contain exits for daily and emergency use. Exits provide the safety and security to live a life filled with passion and inspiration. If circumstances arise and you find yourself in darkness look for a light. If there is none, listen and reach out to someone near. They will lead you to safety. Begin your journey today.